Mathless world

I had a little deck of fraction cards sitting on the table when one of my young writing friends was visiting last week.

“What are those?” he asked.

“Fraction cards for a math game,” I said.  “Do you like math?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know. I don’t really get it.”

What he meant, actually, was that he doesn’t really know what the word refers to.  He’s at ease in conversation about money, cost, discount, tax, about measurement, rate, distance, speed, about logic, pattern, or other relationship.  It’s just not called math at his house. It only exists in the context of life, not as a separate entity.

Soon he’ll know what we mean when we talk about math, and that he’s been doing it all along without knowing it; he’ll realize there’s not actually anything he doesn’t get.

But I couldn’t help imagining a world without the word.  A world in which math isn’t a thing; just part of myriad other processes we go peaceably about in the course of our days.  The kind that some of us do for fun, the kind that’s just for the sake of itself (distinct from the daily use kind), could have some other name – number play, maybe. Anything that gives it some distance and breathing room from the word that’s come to strike such fear and confusion in the hearts of so many  What a world that would be.

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One Response

  1. This is my favorite post to date! We homeschool…our son is 9. I am half way through the Mathematician’s Lament and am totally, utterly passionately sold. But…now what? I’m not a mathematician and fall into the “duh” populace of math paralysis. Who has a curriculum, a study guide, activities prepared to those of us who want to give this gift of wonder to our kids and allow the +,-, X,/ come later, and and naturally? I don’t know where to begin or what to show. I wouldn’t have known the triange in the rectangle thing if I hadn’t just read it in the book. So where do we find sources? (I intend to track down the author and ask him the same). :))

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